LANSING — A coalition of labor and civil rights groups have formed a committee that could push for a ballot proposal to raise Michigan’s minimum wage.
The organizations on Monday said they were going to submit paperwork to the Michigan Secretary of State to form a ballot proposal committee. They plan to make a formal decision on moving forward with a campaign for the Nov. 2014 ballot in the next few weeks.
Michigan last increased its minimum wage to $7.40 per hour in 2008. It is among 21 states with a minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25.
The coalition hasn’t announced specific numbers yet, but wants to raise both the regular minimum wage as well as the minimum for tipped employees, which has been $2.65 per hour for about 22 years.
“We know we have public support for this; it’s just common sense that if you’re working 40 hours a week you should be making enough to support your family,” said Danielle Atkinson, director of Mothering Justice, one of the coalition members.
The news comes one day before President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, a forum which Obama has used in the past to push for a federal minimum wage increase, and he is expected to discuss income inequality on Tuesday.
Workers and activists held several protests throughout Michigan and nationwide last year to call for an increase in the state and federal minimum wages.
And lawmakers in at least 30 states are sponsoring or are expected to introduce wage hike measures, according to a national review by The Associated Press. They hope to notch state-level victories as Obama and congressional Democrats remain stymied in attempts to raise the federal minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
In Michigan, Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, introduced legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $10 per hour by 2016. He introduced a similar bill last session that never made it out of committee. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer has proposed a minimum wage hike to $9.25 per hour.
Opponents, many of them Republicans, argue that the higher wages translate into fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said the claim that working families need the boost to make ends meet makes him “cringe, because I know that statement is a lie,” noting that even with a higher minimum wage, families couldn’t make ends meet, according to the AP. He said he’s focused instead on creating better jobs and careers.
“Our politicians in both Lansing and Congress have failed us, so we have to start looking at other ways to move this issue forward and get people a raise,” said Frank Houston, chair of the Oakland County Democratic Party and consultant for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan. “It’s ridiculous that working people have had to wait on politicians to get this done when there is overwhelming support. It’s really unacceptable.”
Muskegon resident Shannon Bryson, 33, is a single mom with two kids and earns minimum wage working part time at a fast food restaurant.
“By the time I pay for gas to get to and from work, there’s not much left of my pay check,” she said in a statement. “Raising the minimum wage could do a lot for mothers like me. I see people evicted from their homes because they don’t earn enough to pay their rent, and during this cold, cold winter, I see children whose parents can’t afford to dress them warmly enough.”
The coalition includes the Center for Progressive Leadership, Michigan United, MOSES, the Restaurant Opportunities Center of (ROC) Michigan, Mothering Justice and Building Movement Project/People’s Platform.
MLive reporter Jonathan Oosting and The Associated Press contributed to this report.